along the Mississippi
by Pat Middleton
Contents may not be reposted, reproduced or
republished in any format without permission of the publisher.
Excerpted from Volume
3 (St. Louis to Memphis), Discover! America's Great River Road by
Pat Middleton, click link to purchase all four Volumes of Discover!
Age Armadillos ] [ The
Clovis Connection ] [Glaciers
Left Their Mark on the Mississippi]
Click here for press release about a Mastodon
skull retrieved from
the Mississippi River by the St. Louis District Corps of Engineers.
The Kimmswick, Missouri, mastodon bones were first discovered in
May of 1839 and described as the Missourium
Kochii or the Missouri
Leviathan. Dr. Albert C. Koch--part scientist and part showman in
the tradition of P. Barnam--supposed it was an entirely new species
from the known mammoths and mastodon species at the time and that it
was especially adapted to living for great lengths of time under
water, similar to a hippopotamus. By 1840, he had amassed enough bones
to mount a skeleton which he displayed in his St. Louis Museum (at a
site almost beneath the arch) and eventually toured throughout the USA
and parts of Europe. The original Kimmswick mastodon bones were
purchased by the British Museum in London.
An account in Centennial, by James A. Michener, relates a visit by
Levi and Elly Zendt to "see the Gigantic Elephant Discovered in These
Regions by Dr. Albert Koch. . .". when they passed through St. Louis
on their way west in 1844. The Zendts, like most other immigrants in
the western expansion, had never seen an animal so fearsome as the
The phrase "seeing the elephant" as in "I saw the elephant"
symbolized the amazing new world of America's west. It also referred
to the great awe, fear, terror the pioneers faced when making the trip
west. "When a man saw the elephant, . . .rising out of the darkness
with those beady, flaming eyes, he must heed its warning" to go no
further. Many of those who passed Koch's museum on Market Street "saw
the elephant" both literally and figuratively! (Centennial, p. 402)
Fossil records indicate that there have been five families of
elephant-like mammals (the Proboscidea) with as many as 100 different
species during the 40-million-year history of this order. Today only
two species of two genera still survive, the African and Asian
elephants. In 1979, it is estimated that there were 1.5 million
elephants in Africa. Today, less than half that number survive. It is
estimated that only 100,000 elephants will exist in the present day.
The Clovis Connection
It was 1979 before excavations by the Illinois
State Museum Society associated
a complete Clovis projectile point (and other stone tools and waste
flakes) with the bones and teeth of Mastodon and other fauna in the
Kimmswick Bone Beds. This was significant because it provided
definitive evidence for the association of the American mastodon and
the Clovis spearpoint.
The Clovis artifacts found at the Kimmswick site indicate that it
was not only a site for killing and butchering of mastodons, but that
chipped-stone weapons were manufactured at the site. The area was
likely a deciduous woodland with open grassy meadows with limited
occupation by the Clovis hunters.
The Clovis people are considered to be earliest successful group of
Native Americans. Their culture is most similar to those found at the
time in northeast Asia. It is believed they migrated to North America
nearly 12,000 years ago via the Bering Straits, a 1300-mile-wide land
bridge to NA.
Artifacts date from 11,300 to 10,900 years ago, from coast to
coast. However, Clovis/mammoth remains occur only in from Arizona, New
Mex and Texas north to S Dakota. 1933 first artifacts found w/mammoth
bones in Clovis, New Mexico . Less than 15 sites are in assoc with
mammoth bones, all on the western plains. Clovis/mastodon site is only
here at Kimmswick Bone Beds.
It is believed that the Clovis people were nomadic, living in
groups of about 50 men, women and children. They were expert artisans
and skilled big-game hunters. They lived successfully among such large
ice age animals as mammoth and mastodons, camels, llamas, horses,
peccaries, stag-moose, musk-oxen, saber-tooth cats, bears, lions,
cheetahs, dire wolves. The closest similar environment today are the
savannas of Africa. All these large animals became extinct by the end
of the ice age.
Should you see an armadillo in Missouri or Illinois, please report
your observation to Russell Graham at the research and Collections
Center, Illinois State Museum, 1011 East Ash, Springfield, IL 62703,
or call 217-785-4844. You will add to researchers' understanding of
why, how, and when armadillos expand or contract their ranges. Tell
him you saw this notice on the internet.
Among other large animal bones found in rock beds and caves in the
area of Mastodon State Historic Site are the remains of the extinct
Beautiful Armadillo. This is of special interest to researchers in the
Illinois & Missouri area as there are signs that the modern-day
Nine-banded Armadillo may be expanding its range to include southern
Illinois and Missouri. In 1993 the first confirmed spotting of an
armadillo was made near Hillsboro, about 30 miles south of St. Louis.
Scientists today are studying with great interest the northerly
expansion of the Armadillo from the Rio Grade River Valley in southern
Texas at the beginning of the 20th century. Is the modern-day
armadillo invading new territory as winters become less severe or
simply returning to an area previously inhabited by the species.
(While the climate then was much colder than it is today, it may not
have been as extreme in the winter as ours is.)
The Ice-Age armadillo was identical to the modern-day armadillo
except that it was two to three times larger. Its bones, teeth and
bits of shell have been found in deposits that are over 40,000 years
old. Scientist were surprised to find its fossils ranging throughout
most of southwestern Iowa, central Missouri, and southern
Indiana almost identical to where modern-day armadillos have been
More Web info
on Mammoths and Mastodons!
Looking for more? SEARCH NOW!
[Info from a Clovis-Mastodon Association in Eastern
Missouri, SCIENCE, 4 September 1981, Vol 213, pp. 1115-1117]
[info from Seeing the Elephant by Jeffrey J. Saunders, Assoc.
Curator of Geology, Illinois State Museum. The Living Museum, Vol. 51,
[Mastodon info and photos from Russell Graham, Illinois State
Museum, from information published in The Living Museum.]
[Armadillo drawing by Julianne Snider for the Illinois State